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Summer Lane

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
My father was born at No. 38, Summer Lane on 22 November 1899. This came as a bit of a surprise to me when my elder brother unearthed the fact during family history researches. Dad's attitude to the area – of which I became aware during my childhood in the 1940s - was always that it wasn't, shall we say, the most upmarket residential area of Birmingham because of the existence, in his day, of ruffian gangs (presumably of the Peaky Blinder type). I remember he once said to me rather grimly, as we drove through it on the way home and passed the end of one of the side streets, that when he was a lad living in the area the police would only ever go down there in pairs. This shocked me more than somewhat at the time. Even in the middle of a dreadful war, the world seemed to me a much more law-abiding place than that.

My brother researched the circumstances and established that our grandfather and grandmother, Charles and Martha (formerly Bannister) Myers, previously lived in Highbury Road, Kings Heath. At some time in 1898 or 1899 and just before my father's birth they moved to 38 Summer Lane, which were rented premises.

Here they set up in business as antique dealers, stocking their shop with the contents of their home. Both worked very hard and built up a viable business which caused them to seek larger premises after a few years. Their success was largely due to the experience of Charles who had followed his father, Henry, as an auctioneer, valuer, connoisseur and dealer in fine arts, on which he was held in high regard and had written many published articles on the subject. (I'm not that all sure when Henry adopted that career – he certainly didn't have it as a young man in Gold Rush California and when he came back in 1859 he started off as an ironmonger).

My grandparents' business appears in the Kelly's of 1902 and 1903. Thereafter the entries for 1904, 1905 and 1906 show a move to 44 Snow Hill. One or two fragments of Charles and Martha's business interests remain, scattered throughout the family, although I don't think any stay in my possession. My own father was always an instinctive collector but was far too cautious to rely on that interest as a means of feeding us kids!

A few of the people in this little story. First, Henry, grandfather Charles's dad, in the mid 1870s with his second wife Rose:

Henry-and-Rosemg020.jpg

Then Martha in about 1904, probably now in Snow Hill, with their daughter and Henry, their son (my father):

GYMarthaMyersHMMca19041.jpg

And finally "The Old 'Un", my grandfather Charles - now a widower (Martha having died at an early age in 1918) and I think "a bit of a lad" - photographed in the very early 1920s.

CharlesMyerukLocation1920si.jpg

Chris
 

Astoness

TRUE BRUMMIE MODERATOR
Staff member
thanks chris...great post and as i was born off summer lane always interested to hear what others know could be my imagination but have you posted about the shop before ... of course you are right about police usually going around in pairs down summer lane..its well documented...may also have had something to do with the fact that there was a pub on every corner lol..think i read that the birmingham arms was one of the worst for pub brawls...had at least 16 pubs during the 1960s...but i have to say that as in most deprived areas the people were the salt of the earth...never had much but if you had nothing would give you half of what they had as i found out as i was growing up

chris is the house your grandparents lived in in highbury road still there.. if as i suspect it is i find it quite extraordinary that they should move from an up market house to summer lane which was quite poverty stricken ...do you have any photos of 38 summer lane chris..i would be very surprised if many folk around there could afford to buy antiques which could explain why your grandparents moved to snow hill to try their luck there

lyn
 
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ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Thanks, Lyn. No, unfortunately no information whatsoever about 38 Summer Lane. Wish I had.

As you say, the move itself seems a very strange one. Charles is mentioned in the 1899 Kelly's as occupant of "The Cedars", Highbury Road (this mention appearing in the "Court Pages" of the Directory but whether at the instigation of Charles who, as my brother wrote, fancied himself as a bit of a "man about town", I don't know). I imagine that house still exists but whether under the same name, I've no idea. So the move to Summer Lane is surprising indeed. But Charles was a bit of a chancer, financially, and it sounds as though their initial stock for the antiques business came from what they owned within that earlier property. The prospect of cheap premises for a new business? Who knows. As you say, not much of a market for objets d'art in the immediate area, so probably their customer base was geographically broader. And perhaps they had plans to develop the online side of things?

(A bit off topic: Charles had been born at 3 Monmouth Street in 1866. By 1881 he was still living with his parents but at 75 Soho Hill and then again in 1891 at 42 York Road, Edgbaston at the age of 25, unmarried and described as a "Dealer in the Fine Arts". He had attended King Edward's in New Street leaving in 1882/83. At some stage he, like his father, had a spell the USA. At the time of his marriage in 1897 at the age of 32 his address was still that of his family, now at 83 Stirling Road. So even before his move to Summer Lane, he had got about a bit!)

Because of Martha's ill-health there was a move from Snow Hill in the 1910s, out of the smoky inner-city to the fresh air of Chessett's Wood. But she only lasted there for three or four years and died in January 1918 from pulmonary t.b. and asthma at the age of 44 by which time my father was away in the Army. Charles sold absolutely everything up almost immediately from under everyone's feet. "Even my precious stamp album", Dad told me once. And then embarked on his next ventures. As we see from the photograph above he looked pretty happy with life by the early 1920s.

Chris
 
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brummy-lad

master brummie
It must be so frustrating Chris that we have these 2 images of the Unity Club and No. 38 is not shown.
At least on the 1 picture the children must be almost standing in front of it, certainly gives you a feel for the area, apparently this picture is from 1949 (date edited) when there was a fire at the Unity Club.
I have the same problem with 143 Park Lane, the image I have of Park Lane is just 2 houses away.
It's a lovely story and you're so lucky to have those pictures and the names to go with them.
 

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mikejee

Super Moderator
Staff member
Highbury road is first listed in Kellys in the 1897 edition, an the Cedars are not listed. (The c1884 OS ap does not show the road at all). TheCedars appear between the 1897 and 1899 editions and, as can be seen, seems to encompass several households.
Kellys 1899 Highbury road,.jpg

The Streetview view today agrees with this and below can be seen the plaque labelled Cedars in the row of houses

https://goo.gl/maps/doAcm7j8Aq87k8Rs8
 

Astoness

TRUE BRUMMIE MODERATOR
Staff member
thanks mike so as i thought on the opposite side to the unity club which was almost opposite no 43 also marked on your map....will keep searching for a photo for chris

lyn
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Thanks, Mike and Lyn. It doesn’t look like the place to run a business from. Or at least one of that type. It makes me wonder whether they had access to neighbouring property/properties.

Chris
 

Astoness

TRUE BRUMMIE MODERATOR
Staff member
Thanks, Mike and Lyn. It doesn’t look like the place to run a business from. Or at least one of that type. It makes me wonder whether they had access to neighbouring property/properties.

Chris

i have to agree with that chris...does the property look big enough to have a front and back room...live in the back and shop at the front..difficult to tell...looks like a bit of mystery to me..i noted that it was opposite the bulls head pub corner of new summer st and summer lane..i have a cracking photo of this pub but alas it does not show the other side of the road

lyn
 
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brummy-lad

master brummie
Fire at the Unity Club was 16th July 1949 NOT 1947 as I said in post #726. Unless of course there was more than one fire.
 

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Astoness

TRUE BRUMMIE MODERATOR
Staff member
thanks for that snippet john...sounds like it was a very fierce fire...sadly as you know the original unity club is no more but at least its name lives on around the corner in new summer st...

lyn
 

bryan summers

ASTON LAD
I spoke to a lady last week who lived on the corner of Cowper Street and Newtown Row. She told me about the bombings during the war and the devastation especially the school. She said her father would never go down the shelter. It must have been awful. She said how lucky they were as their house was never hit. The family name was Pursehouse.
Hi Wendy. I'm new to this forum so have only just seen your message. I lived in Newtown Row at no 258 and the Pursehouse family lived two doors below us. in fact Ken Pursehouse, the son of the family was my best friend during the 40s. He had an older sister whose name I can't remember. Kenny and I used to play cowboys and Indians in our back yard. He always had to be Ken Maynard (a cowboy star of the time) though he wanted to be Roy Rogers.
 
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